HRT Stage Speaker System
Right out of the gates, the HRT Stage is designed for the type person who crave a gratifying listening experience that is transformative of their current headspace. For instance, I found this system incredibly engaging where The Stage, coupled with the right genres, help you move past bad moods in the timespan of three or four songs. While $1300 appears expensive for a desktop-based listening set-up, the therapeutic benefits gleaned are priceless. Come for the music, stay for the psychic relief. Skip the psychiatric and counseling sessions and bask in an environment of balanced instrumentation, precise timing with a dash of a visceral jolt. This is the clinical scientific comparison of the Mercedes E-class sedan juxtaposed with the emotionality and adrenaline provoking nature of the Corvette roadster.
High Resolution Technologies (HRT) is a Southern California based company that specializes in computer audio. While their Streamer series of DAC's were released in the late 2000's, this technology is leveraged within the Stage, a 2.1 channel USB-based speaker through its integrated DAC that supports resolutions up to 96khz/24-bit which meshed well with hi-res albums including 'American Idiot,' 'Ultraviolence,' and 'American Beauty.'
The set-up for the Stage system is intuitive. Connect the right and left speakers to the control station with one cable each, and connect a USB cable from your laptop to the console. Next, boot up your iTunes library, or, even better, I recommend using JRiver v.21 for best performance. After a couple of seconds, the Stage springs to life, and belts out a room-filling sound that makes the HRT Stage among the loudest desktop systems I've encountered. Experimentation revealed that the equipment can be pushed to high volumes without distortion.
"Bear With Me," by Through The Roots (feat. Eric Rachmany of Rebelution) in 320kbps possessed a sense of spaciousness that I had not experienced previously with the track. In addition, the HRT Stage breathed new life into Rachmany's vocals. This depth of auditory information carried over into Stick Figure's 'Smoke Stack'.
"Vibes Alive," by Stick Figure booted from the CD-drive of my laptop in 1440kbps transported me into a luscious soundscape filled with samples of harps, drums, and layers of electronic beats that allowed me to forget my worldly cares. I was enveloped in a soothing dreamland saturated with Scott Woodruff's exaggerated ambient vocals which are vocoder-esque at times.
"Hawaii Song," by SF picks up the tempo and had me moving my shoulders and hands with the beat which includes lifelike drums which carry over into "Smoke Stack." This organic percussion is valuable, especially because Layne Redmond's philosophy that "drumming is the musical expression of… primal power," holds true today as ironically, the technically sophisticated Stage accurately reproduced the timbre of drums in the studio. It helped me to connect with a vibration that was extremely meditative, cleansing, and in touch with an earlier form of human consciousness.
In addition, Redmond's belief that "Rhythm is a means of organizing sound into specific energy formulas to harmonize the mind and body. Chanting, rhythmic breathing and drumming form an ancient technology for directly synchronizing the mind/body complex, creating conditions for psychological and physical healing," was also relevant with the Stage. In effect, on "Thick & Thin," five tracks in, the cathartic effect of these speakers sank in. Regrets and dark spells were dispelled like an exorcism, beading off like water droplets as the music filled my body and this track came to possess me instead.
A remarkable sense of balance between vocals and bass were effectively counter-balanced within a track that would be reproduced as primarily bass-centric on many other systems i.e. my smartphone and car speakers. In short, vocals were placed above the boomy parts making lyrics all the more intelligible.
With regard to their bass reproduction, the HRT Stage falls somewhere in the middle between the pristinely neutral Bowers & Wilkins and the supremely bassy Monster sound signatures, which appealed to me because this represents a happy medium that I can live with. Their sound is visceral and passionate but also respects the EQ levels artists and producers chose regarding where to limit or emphasize the high and low end.
Hard rock was phenomenal through the Stage as well, especially with songs by P.O.D. on 'The Awakening.' The Stage appears to respect no limits. The intensity and hardness of drums and guitars on "Am I Awake" and the way Sonny Sandoval's melodic vocals are showcased is impressive. "This Goes Out To You" delivers just the right amount of guitar feedback and distortion at the beginning of the track, and Sonny's ciphers are backed with screaming guitars.
On "Criminal Conversations," the drum kit is clean, layered against surf-rock inspired guitar peppered with wailing guitars which segues into "Somebody's Trying to Kill Me," which retains the percussive cleanliness, and brings down the tempo to reveal more surf-rock like chords and massive guitar feedback. Spookily, the track's ending has a sample with footsteps and church bells that are palpable.
"Get Down," posits a similar tempo with a spacey keyboard at the beginning and furious shredding throughout. "Speed Demon," injects listeners with rage and amphetamines; the clinking on the drum-set and the bassy low-end carry well in an otherwise guitar-centric track. The saxophone and cymbals on the jazz-inspired "Want It All," are a listening pleasure.
After P.O.D., I chose to evaluate the first two tracks of 'American Idiot.' The system makes intricate drum parts easy to pick apart and dissect. "Jesus of Suburbia," is no exception; drums are substantive throughout. The downtempo part around 5:00 contains cymbals with a sparkling resonance.
Since the remaining eleven tracks of "American Idiot," didn't reveal substantially more detail than is outlined above, it was time to move onto another favorite. Lana Del Ray's 'Ultraviolence' is a very romantic and ethereal album permeated by a charming faux record crackle and the HRT Stage does much to enhance the experience of its playback.
I thoroughly enjoyed watching the Stage's drivers pulsate on "Till the Morning Comes," for which it delivered the heaviest bass on the album which will pierced my body to my satisfaction. This carried over into "Truckin," which makes for great fun. Both incorporate energetic electric guitars with quick transitions between strings which blend notes together well on this system.
The HRT Stage provided propulsive bass on "Let It Happen," as well as an aggressive attack on the electric organ. The vocoder-like subdued parts are reminiscent of Herbie Hancock, and distorted guitars and punchy drums reveal the HRT Stage is not only an audiophile system; non-audiophiles will be able to appreciate its funky approach to grooves and overall dance-ability of "The Moment." These qualities carried over into the slower-tempo "Cause I'm A Man," which again persuaded me to shuffle my feet across our hardwood floors and nod my head in conjunction with the beat.
The HRT Stage gives listeners a very visceral experience, and standing in the presence of these speakers is a powerful incentive to pound a punching bag or to grind through push-ups. This is surprising because never before have I encountered computer-based audio that stimulates my passions so actively; 'Currents' is a mellow album yet HRT Stage makes it so exciting that my pulse quickens, and my primal strength emerges. In short, this is a system that is relevant to both a home-listening area such as a bedroom or living room but also for a garage or attic-based home gym.
In addition, TV shows are more enjoyable to watch with The Stage system. Firstly, while lines can sometimes be difficult to hear when watching The Tudors (Showtime, 2007), the HRT Stage remedies this problem; conversations amongst the show's characters are broadcast through your room with clarity which makes them more readily interpretable.
In addition, the human voice is provided with a satisfying timbre that more effectively conveys the emotional state and intent of the characters, making me feel more immersed in the series' drama. Lines, footsteps, bird chirps and church bells were produced clearly. Playback of the human voices possessed a fine timbre.
Overall, the HRT Stage has finesse in reproducing albums and television shows with excellent separation between sections without bleeding, and delivers a fulfilling way to engage with the media of one's choice that is simultaneously mechanically capable but also emotionally gratifying. Highly recommended.
Specification - Control Centre
Sample Rate: up to 96 kHz
Bit Depth: up to 24 bit
USB transfer protocol: asynchronous
Jitter contribution (DC to 30 kHz): >130 dB below full scale
Preamplifier & attenuator
Line input impedance: 20k Ohm
Attenuator step size: .5 dB
LF output impedance: 500 Ohm
Class of operation: AB
Maximum power output: 70 Watts / channel
Frequency response: +0 dB / -.2 dB
Power requirements: Mains: 115/230 VAC 50/60 Hz 220 VA
(H x W x D): 8.5” x 6.25” x 8”
Weight: 8.5 pounds
Specification - Speaker System
Impedance (minimum): 7 Ohm
Impedance (maximum): 39 Ohm
Crossover: 2.8 kHz (2nd order)
Sensitivity: 84.5 dB @ 1 meter w/ 2.83 V
Distortion: >.3% @ 90 dB SPL
Power handling (system): 100 Watts
Frequency Response (45 Hz - 20 kHz): +/- 2 dB (w/ Control Center)
Tweeter: 1x 28 mm
Woofer: 3x 70 mm
Voice Coil (diameter): 25.5 mm 4 layer, Kapton former
Magnetic structure (T & W): Under-hung, with shorting ring
Alignment: B4 (+ 4th order electrical HP)
Vent: 38 mm rear facing (with flared terminations)
Dimensions (envelope H x W x D): 15” x 6.25” x 7.25”
Weight (each): 9.4 pounds
Mounting bracket: 2x M6 inserts (60mm on center)
Input connector: 2mm x 6.5mm coaxial
Distributor: Elite AV Distribution.
800 457 2577 x 22
323 466 9694 x 22
fax: 323 466 9825